Since the commencement of the Fourth Republic, Ghana has sadly recorded violence during by-elections to replace Members of Parliament.
I can readily recall Chereponi, Talensi and Atewa by-elections. For some strange reasons, the Ghana Police Service seems to have never concluded investigations into these election-related disturbances. Or to put it more appropriately, there is little or no record of any successful prosecution of individuals involved in such activities.
The reason why by-elections are highly fertile periods for violence may be because of the 'political statements' competing political parties seek to make. A ruling political party may use a favourable outcome to say that electorates have endorsed the policies and programs of the government. A favourable outcome for the opposition political party may be used to say electorates have rejected the policies and programs of a government.
As I have stated earlier, for some strange reasons, individuals involved in these elections-related violence are hardly punished. It is for this reason that the President and government must be commended for setting up a Commission of Inquiry(Commission) into the Ayawaso West Wougon (AWW) by-elections which took place on the 31st day of January 2019.
The work of the Commission will unravel challenges with our election security arrangements and offer possible solutions to stop this canker. The Commission's proceedings these past few days have allayed the doubts and scepticism created in the minds of people that the Commission was to do a cover-up work. The credibility, integrity and impartiality of the personalities on the Commission have been on full display during the proceedings. Counsel for the Commission, Eric Akwasi Osei-Mensah Esq. keeps putting incisive, hard and probing questions to the witnesses who appear before the Commission.
On Friday, the 15th day of February 2019, when the Electoral Commission Chairperson, Jean Mensa took her turn at the Commission, she disclosed some facts about the AWW by-election which is the focus of this article. She was asked specific questions regarding an incident that allegedly took place at the Prisons JHS Polling Center in Roman Ridge.
The allegations were made by the Coalition of Domestic Election Observers (CODEO) in a report they published on the 3rd of February, 2019 that "security operatives who claimed to be National Security operatives positioned themselves next to polling officials and when a stationed uniformed police officer alerted them to move away from poll officials, a pick-up full of many more of the so-called security operatives descended on the police officer and attacked him for doing legitimate work."
It has turned out that this part of CODEO's report is not true. The EC Chairperson, relying on the report of the Presiding Officer of the said Polling Center has flatly denied this scary incident ever happened. It is important to state that the Presiding Officer is the overall head in charge of election organization at a polling station. Again, the elections monitoring team from the Electoral Commission deployed into the Constituency also did not record any such incident in their report.
The most interesting part is that the Regional Police Commander has (in a letter) denied any of his police officers were descended upon or attacked by any masked National Security operatives as alleged by CODEO.
It has become clear that this particular allegations contained in CODEO's report is not supportable so far. CODEO must come out publicly again to speak to this specific issue.
The importance of election observers cannot be over-emphasized. Their reports are used by many important institutions both locally and internationally. Indeed, CODEO's report has influenced many news headlines, media and discussions. Diplomatic missions in Ghana may have already sent reports on the AWW by-elections to their home countries heavily relying on CODEO's report.
So CODEO owes it to Ghanaians and their important stakeholders to report only the truth of events that have actually taken place. It cannot be the case that a police officer was "descended upon and attacked" by armed masked men at Prisons JHS polling centre and the Presiding Officer did not see it, the election monitoring team did not report it or the police command is unaware about it.
CODEO may need to investigate their officer who filed this particular report to provide further evidence to support this allegation else CODEO must publicly withdraw this allegation and apologize. It will be in the interest of the CODEO to admit they erred in this particular allegation than to allow this falsity to stand in their name.
I LOVE GHANA